U.S. House considers farm bill extension, leaving aside needed reforms

Earlier in July, the U.S. House Agriculture Passed its version of the next farm bill, but did so without including needed conservation protections for highly erodible soil, wetlands, and native prairie and grasslands.  At that time, we were hopeful beneficial amendments could improve the bill when it reached the House floor–just like took place in the Senate.

But now, time is running out to pass a new farm bill given the coming August recess and looming September 30 deadline when the current farm bill expires.  The current drought, which is creating serious problems for farmers–especially livestock producers–has also made the situation more urgent.

In the last few days, leadership in the U.S. House has hastily pulled together a one-year extension of the farm bill that would provide disaster assistance but also cut funding for important conservation programs and delay actions on critical farm program reforms Congress has been discussing all year.

Take action:  The Iowa Environmental Council has prepared an action alert allowing you to tell your Representative you expect Congress to pass a full, final farm bill this year.

Specifically, the one year extension the House is considering would:

  • Reduce funding for important conservation programs by $760 million over 10 years,
  • Provide no funds for a wide range of farm programs supporting rural economic development, renewable energy, organic agriculture, local food, and beginning and minority farmer programs, and
  • Continue $5 billion in annual spending for the direct payment program the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committee have agreed should end in the next farm bill.

It is necessary for Congress to provide drought disaster assistance to farmers who need it, but paying for that assistance with cuts to conservation programs that protect the long-term productivity of the land is counterproductive in the long run.

We couldn’t express the situation any better than Gene Schmidt, who is president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, who described the situation this way (boldface added):

“We recognize farmers need aid in this emergency drought situation; however, sacrificing the very programs that help mitigate the impacts of drought and other disasters is extremely shortsighted. While we can’t control the weather, long-term conservation planning is our best defense in protecting and preserving our natural resource base for the future. I think everyone would agree that it’s better to continue to invest in conservation now, than to be forced to pay the escalated costs of repair down the road.

In a press release, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, of which the Iowa Environmental Council is a member, said in a statement it “vehemently opposes” the House extension bill and laid out its reasoning in a related blog post.


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